Steelers coach Mike Tomlin calls preseason debate a 'waste of time'

— -- PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin has a message for members of the  Pittsburgh Steelers who are stressed out about the number of preseason games in light of injury risk: Drop it.

The Steelers' head coach called the conversation a "waste of time" Thursday as his team enters its fourth of five preseason games, which is Saturday at Buffalo.

"Some of the things we spend a lot of time talking about are irrelevant, out of our control -- it's a waste of time," Tomlin said. "We don't have control over the schedule. We don't have control over who we play, when we play, where we play. Our job is to show up ready to play."

Injuries to two Pro Bowl players Sunday in Pittsburgh sparked national conversation about the length of the preseason. Packers receiver Jordy Nelson tore his right ACL on the game's first drive, and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey broke a bone in his left ankle that required surgery. He could return for the season's second half.

Twenty-five NFL players have torn an ACL this year, according to ESPN's John Clayton. The rash of injuries "makes you wonder" about the merits of a five-game slate, Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas said.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said  preseason, typically set for four games, should be cut in half. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters in the locker room Tuesday and earlier this week on ESPN's Mike & Mike that his offense needs two games to get ready, not four.

Roethlisberger said he believes a two-game preseason is a sweet spot.

"If the league can't do that, maybe the owners or the coaches will say, 'You know what, We're only going to play our starters in [games] 2 and 3,'" Roethlisberger said. "I know it's like that now but don't even put the risk. Why not even take them out altogether?"

Roethlisberger won't get his coach to say that, at least not publicly. Tomlin acknowledges he's referring to comments from his own players with his 'waste of time' comment. Tomlin said, "I'll take [five]" preseason games.

"Those guys don't have a vote," said Tomlin of the players.

The NFL determines the schedule, meaning Tomlin likely doesn't have a vote either. Tomlin is on the NFL's eight-person competition committee, which oversees rule changes.